Nail Clipping Techniques
Nail trimming can be a difficult experience for a first time guinea pig owner. A few hints may help you achieve success.
- Nail Care (from Guinea Pig Feet and Foot Problems)
- Andrew's Tips
- Heather's Handy Pig Hold
- Quiet Wren's Counter Top Technique
- Whittibo's Dremel Sanding Drum Pics: Pic 1 -- Pic 2
- MildredM's "Wrap Up Your Piggy Toe Nail Trim Technique" for Fairy (many photos)
Don't let your pet's nails get too long! (ShadowBlasko's rescued pig's nails at right.)
Guinea pig toenails grow constantly. Some grow straighter while others have a tendency to curl and lie to one side. Very young guinea pig's nails are short and sharp. Early clippings help blunt their sharp nails. As a guinea pig ages, their nails become more brittle and grow more irregularly. Guinea pigs kept as pets generally require nail clipping, as their nails do not receive enough wear to keep them at the proper length. Some people put a stone or brick in their pet's cage in the hope that it will wear down the nails so trimming is unnecessary. However, this is generally not effective and all guinea pigs seem to require regular trims. A very few pigs will chew on their hind nails.
For added safety, the author prefers using a human nail clipper (photo above, left). It does not open as wide as the adjacent guillotine style clipper, though some pet owners prefer them. Clipping on a monthly basis will help prevent the quick from advancing too far.
With dark nails, some people claim shining a bright light from underneath will help you locate where the quick is so you can avoid clipping too short. And according to Deborah's vet, cutting top to bottom (like we cut our own nails) is less likely to pinch.
For some wonderful close-ups of guinea pig feet and nails at different life stages (10 days, 3 months, 2 1/2 years), see the Feet page.
The following article was contributed by Andrew and is printed with his permission:
After 12 years you'd think I'd have this nail trimming thing down to a fine science -- not even close! In fact, I take my piggies to the Vet on a monthly basis to "escape" this stressful pastime!
I may be a "weenie" but it doesn't mean you have to follow in my footsteps. Nail trimming can be done at home and here are a few tips I've picked up along the way.
Trimming your piggies nails should start when they are about two months old. Their small size usually dictates the need for a second person - one to hold firmly and one to trim. Little piggie teeth are very sharp so be prepared and perform the procedure in a location where you can put the piggie down quickly to tend to a wound or two!
I recommend a set of baby sized nail clippers to begin (in proportion to tiny little nails) and trim a little bit off each nail in the beginning. Some piggies have clear nails and you will be able to easily see the blood line, others it may not be visible and you will have to guess. As your piggie gets older, you can switch to adult nail clippers or get a set of the scissors nail trimmers available in your local pet store.
If there's a golden rule to piggie nail trimming, it's probably frequency. If the nails are left for extended periods of time without attention, the bloodline advances closer to the tip. However, by trimming the nails more frequently, the bloodline miraculously recedes. Every 30 days seems to be a good average.
In the event you do trim the nail too short and cut through the bloodline, take a deep breath. You haven't mortally wounded your little friend! It's always a good idea to have a "styptic pencil" handy (available in the men's shaving area of your local drug store) or aluminum sulfate power (also from the drug store). Touch the end of the bleeding nail with the pencil or the powder and the bleeding will stop immediately (yes there is a little discomfort to your piggie so be strong).
As your piggie gets older you may stick to the two person format, but many owners have been successful using a nice big piece of carrot or another favorite food to distract piggie while getting the job done. Some even find it best to complete the task over a couple of days.
Whatever method you find works best for you, stay calm and focused and everything will turn out fine!
As a footnote, there are some owners who puts rocks and bricks etc. in their piggies cages to wear down their nails . . . maybe it works, maybe it doesn't, but I don't think anything beats a good nail trimming routine!
Heather's Handy Pig Hold
Heather, an experienced nail clipper, uses the following holds to clip the nails on her pigs' feet. She places her pointer finger between the front legs and under the chin to prevent the pig from biting.
QUIET WREN'S COUNTER TOP TECHNIQUE
In this thread, Quiet Wren shows how she clips her guinea pigs' nails.
"Me holding Gus getting ready to trim nails on left hind foot. Gus is about 3 months old and has had this done twice (I think). He's not real comfortable being handled yet, but is a pretty calm pig. His body is up against my stomach and he really can't go anywhere. He would probably be even happier if he had a towel to stand on, because the counter is a little slippery. He is nice and calm here."
"This is the right hind foot. He is kicking a little bit here, but overall doing well."
"Clipping his left front foot. He's still not worried."
"Right front foot. It isn't real obvious from the pictures, but he is well restrained. His body is against my stomach. He can't go backwards because my arm and hand are there and my other hand is in front of him."
"This is Gizmo, my bitey pig. He is high strung and does not take well to handling (but is only 3 months old, so I have hope!). He does not tolerate hands in front of him (he races forward to push me out of the way) or hands over his back or shoulders (he will fling and push until he is out from under my hand). I probably should wear a long sleeve shirt since I have bare skin right by his face if he should become unhappy with me... So far he has handled trims really well. I just have to be a bit more patient about him wiggling!"
Quiet Wren mentions she uses a pretty relaxed hold and uses a human nail clippers. "I've found that the tighter I hold, the more they fight me! So I hold the paw gently and move with them until they relax - then snip! Then repeat. It mostly takes patience."
LS in AK writes, "I've found that a few carefully selected treats shoved in piggy mouths at strategic times (ie when chisel teeth need something more useful to do than aim for my fingers) helps make nail clipping easier, especially when you have a nippy pig.
"I use human nail clippers, too, the larger ones as my piggies have developed thickened back nails as they've aged. The smaller ones are great for babies and young pigs. The opening is narrow enough that it is harder to take off too much at once."